Five Forty Three

Revolutionizing Indian Election Analysis


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Is Narendra Modi peaking too early?

One of the pet theories that is doing the rounds among the political pundits of Dilli is what is known as the ‘early peaking’ theory being applied to Narendra Modi and BJP. There is, many argue, a historic precedent of 2004 when BJP and NDA led by Vajpayee lost the plot during the campaign season. With elections spread across a timeframe of almost a month and a half, could Modi and BJP have a similar trajectory as in 2004?

For starters, one of the biggest difference between Modi and Vajpayee is that the latter was popular no doubt, but was never in the same league as Modi. At no given point of time in his political career was Vajpayee even half as popular as Modi across so many geographies of India. What is more, Vajpayee’s popularity never really went beyond BJP’s core voters, whereas the Modi of today is more popular among the OBCs than some of the biggest OBC leaders of heartland like Nitish, Lalu and Mulayam, the Modi of today is more popular among Jats than the tallest Jat leaders India has ever seen, the Modi of today is more popular among the Lingayats of Karnataka than the tallest Lingayat leader, BSY, the Modi of today is more popular among Marathas than the tallest Maratha leaders like Pawar and Thackerays, the Modi of today is more popular in Tamil Nadu than the tallest Dravidian leaders of the land! The Modi of today is even giving Mayawati a run for her money among the Dalit voters of Uttar Pradesh! Truth is that Vajpayee, never even in the wildest dreams of BJP supporters, could have matched Modi’s social coalition, so it is unlikely that Modi could suffer Vajpayee’s moment of doubt when India could simply not trust an old man who was hardly ambulatory.

There are of course a few opinion pieces being written about how the Modi juggernaut is facing sudden obstacles due to bad ticket distribution, conflict among the old guard and even the alleged clash of interests within BJP’s core vote – namely, the Brahmin-Thakur fault-line of UP. Then there are subtle suggestions being made by the editorial class about how BJP’s overt courtship of Dalits in Bihar has caused heartburn among the core upper-caste voters of the party. As a corroboration for some of these theories, many among the chattering classes offer findings of some dubious poll surveys conducted by half-a-dozen Hindi News channels and print media which show a decline for support for BJP in the past few weeks. There is even talk of how AAP is growing in urban India after Kejriwal’s challenge to Modi in Varanasi – a few news channels are giving non-stop coverage to Kejriwal shenanigans as a last resort to stop Modi.

Ground realities are actually telling a story completely opposite to what many in Dilli want us to believe. BJP, is actually gaining ground with each passing day rather than peaking! In the heartland, it seems as if there is no power to stop Modi wave as newer groups of voters are getting added every week to an already formidable social coalition that Modi has built. For instance, in Bihar, Dalits are now seamlessly integrated to an almost insurmountable social coalition of a large section of OBCs and a solid block of upper-caste votes that have become BJP’s calling card. In Uttar Pradesh, after the entry of Apna Dal into the NDA fold, Kurmis, the second largest group of OBCs in the state, are solidly behind BJP now. Similarly in Jharkhand, the hitherto divided tribal vote is now more-or-less consolidating around BJP (so much so that both the tribal stalwarts Shibu Soren and Babulal Marandi may well be humbled by BJP’s Sunil Soren, as per ground reports  from Dumka). All of this is corroborated by the only other poll survey agency that we here at 5Forty3 trust (apart from our own in-house surveys).

CSDS projections

The vote-to-seat conversion is not done by CSDS-Lokniti, so CNN-IBN mostly tends to get seat conversions wrong. With the kind of vote-share projections shown by CSDS-Lokniti survey and with further consolidation in the coming days due to the frontrunner advantage that BJP enjoys, it is more likely that BJP-NDA may actually sweep these states clean with hardly any opposition MPs in the next Lok Sabha from the erstwhile Bihar state!

This is not just the story of heartland mind you, for BJP is seeing unprecedented growth in West Bengal and Odisha of Eastern India, where the party has almost zero presence. As per the same CSDS poll, BJP is actually doubling its vote-share to 12% in WB and getting a whopping 30% in Odisha which has pushed the party as the main opposition to BJD! Our own analysis till last month was projecting a single digit haul for BJP in East India, but now with the latest survey findings we have started to revise our estimates, especially in Odisha, where BJP is emerging as a major surprise of 2014.

If this is the story of North and East India, the story of South India for BJP is that of winning alliances. In both Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) and Tamil Nadu, the NDA coalition that Rajnath Singh and Modi have built is so formidable that it may completely alter the electoral arithmetic in these hitherto non-BJP states. Surveys conducted by local organizations in TN are showing surprising performance of the NDA which has even baffled pundits. In Seemandhra, the coming together of all non-Congress anti-Jagan forces under the NDA banner will likely create a major swing in favour of the saffron brigade, while in Telangana, a three-cornered fight may actually harm the present frontrunner, TRS because that party lacks effective cadre on the ground (unlike say Congress or TDP) to convert the goodwill into votes.

Thus we can safely conclude for now that Narendra Modi’s peak is not visible anywhere on the horizon, far from it, the peak seems to be hidden in cloud cover, which the Dilli intelligentsia is mistaking as its only hope. 2014 elections are headed for a historic social engineering by the BJP that may well defy all calculations and more importantly all the media-created electoral peaks.

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Frontrunner advantage and the importance of Western Uttar Pradesh

There is a strange commonality of stand taken by various political parties occupying the Left-secular space regarding a ban on opinion polls during elections this time. One of the reasons given by these parties is that poll surveys affect the voters, especially because all polls have a consensus about BJP being in command position.

Another factor that we constantly hear among psephological circles is what is termed as “winner takes it all” or “the frontrunner advantage”, wherein we are told time and again that voters tend to consolidate with the frontrunner party closer to elections. For instance, in UP 2012 assembly elections, SP was a frontrunner in the run up to the election, but was projected to be well short of a majority by many opinion polls. By the time we moved from opinion polls to exit polls, we were able to see that SP was enjoying the fruits of the “frontrunner advantage” and had ended up winning a comfortable majority. Similar trends have always been seen in almost all the elections (for ex: Tamil Nadu 2010, Bihar 2011 Karnataka 2013 or even the last general elections of 2009 when Congress consolidated beyond its own expectations and won 200+ seats after 18 years).

Is there any truth in this correlation about voters wanting to vote for winners? Have Indian voters, especially the fence-sitters, always voted along these lines, with considerable shift towards the front-running parties in actual elections?

At the outset this looks like a dubious electoral theory, of fence-sitters wanting to vote for a winning party, as if in a collective trance of some sorts. It may also smack of being a suspected retrospective analytical theory wherein we try to ascribe motives to voter’s choice to explain the strength of victory which was not visible on ground in the run-up to a poll. How can we hope to realistically explain this vote-shift during/closer to elections?

The primary X factor is actually the enthusiasm of the cadre, a phenomenon that most pundits miss. The reason why frontrunners consolidate further in actual elections is that party workers, local leaders and cadre of the said party are enthused by favourable ground situation and work towards attracting the fence-sitters, whereas the opposite is true of the party workers of the other parties which are perceived to have unfavourable ground conditions in the run-up to the election. This X factor is further enhanced in elections with multiple phases. This is what makes 2014 such a dangerous election for Congress and to some extent many of the regional parties of heartland.

The Election Commission of India, in its wisdom has decided to have a 5 phased election in the most crucial Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and what has come as a stroke of good luck for the BJP is that western UP would be the first to go to polls. Among all the geographies that go to polls in the first 10 days (7th April to 17th April), western UP would be the most crucial segment that may well decide the eventual fate of 2014.

What many analysts from Dilli don’t understand is the speed of the political message that travels among cadre, which has far more power than opinion polls or editorials. If BJP manages to sweep west-UP, as was being projected in the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar owing to polarization, then the cadre and party workers of other parties would be hugely demoralized going into the next phases of election. Can BJP really sweep western-UP? Have the other parties, especially Congress-RLD alliance, been able to stem the BJP flow in the last few weeks? Answers to these questions will add crucial bits of information to our understanding of 2014.

The Jat-Muslim polarization

One of the primary factors that is clearly visible in West-UP is tremendous anger of the Jat youth, who are fed-up with the Ajit Singh style of politics and are baffled by the blatantly communal outreach of other parties like Congress, BSP and SP. Talk to a set of 10 young Jats anywhere in this region and you will most likely find at least 7 of them enthusiastically speak about Modi, such is the overwhelming support that BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate elucidates among the Jat youth. Will this actually convert into BJP winning overwhelming number of seats depends on three factors;

  1. BJP’s ticket distribution has been generally received with enthusiasm among the Jats, unlike what is being reported in the media, although there are minor disappointments here and there. Will these minor disappointments prevent a BJP sweep remains to be seen
  2. Although youth support is mostly unanimous, the older generation of Jats are still seen to be traditional RLD voters and the ability of the youth to convince their elders into making that shift could be crucial for the BJP
  3. Contrary to editorial perceptions, last minute Jat reservation by the UPA government is a non-starter, as its primary target, the Jat youth aren’t enamoured by this tokenism. Yet, it will be interesting to see how much Ajit Singh and RLD are able to sell the Jat reservation issue to the voting public over the next week or two.

If there are 24 to 27 lakh Jat voters in west-UP, there are almost 45-50 lakh Muslim voters. The problem with Muslim vote is that it is essentially a negative vote against Modi which no party has been able to convert into a positive vote for themselves in 2014. Thus, as of today, Muslim vote is getting divided almost in a three-way split. Samajwadi Party which till only last month had the liability of Muzaffarnagar hanging around its neck, seems to have overcome that because of its strong tier 2 and tier 3 Muslim leadership who have somehow managed to convince large sections of the riot-affected Muslim society that SP had no role to play in the mishandling of riots. Even the local Urdu press has been largely positive about the state SP government.

Congress, which has been largely written off for 2014, surprisingly has a few takers mainly among Muslim voters here, whereas BSP, even more surprisingly, is now placed in the third place within the Muslim voters mindspace. In the aftermath of Muzaffarnagar, it was widely speculated that BSP would be the big beneficiary of Muslim vote due to Congress being out of race and SP suffering from the riot taint. Unfortunately for Maya two factors seem to have gone against her; A] the perception of Muslim intelligentsia and leadership that Maya may align with BJP after elections, of which she has a history and which is always highlighted by Mulayam who projects himself as the only man who can stop Modi and B] A section of Muslim leadership still believes that Congress is the only national alternative for BJP.

This split in Muslim vote is best explained with an example. Rampur, which has almost 50% Muslim population will see a four-cornered fight this time, with Congress, SP and BSP all pitting Muslim candidates and BJP wisely deciding against fielding Muqtar Abbas Naqvi and instead nominating MLC Naipal Singh. This was a seat which Jayaprada had won twice, despite Congress nominating the local Muslim royalty in the form of Noor Bano and Azam Khan opposing her in 2009. This time too, Azam Khan is trying hard to polarize Muslim voters in favour of SP, while Congress has given ticket to Noor Bano’s son and BSP is desperate to create a Dalit-Muslim coalition. Lodh voters with roughly 1 lakh plus strength are the single biggest subset of the Hindu vote and are solidly voting for the BJP since Kalyan Singh is enthusiastically canvassing for BJP. Kurmis who account for roughly 60k votes forming the second biggest subset of the Hindu vote are also very favourably disposed towards BJP, especially after Apna Dal joined the NDA. Even among other OBCs (roughly 3 lakh plus voters in all) and Thakur Bania voters (about 75k in total), there is discernible polarization in favour of the BJP. Thus, despite being a Muslim majority MP constituency, Rampur will likely see a BJP upper hand in 2014.

Rampur

This story keeps repeating everywhere in western UP, which has made the Muslims very unsure of which way to vote. For instance, in Kairana, where BJP has nominated its tallest Gujjar leader of the region, Hukum Singh (the sitting MLA), SP has nominated Nahid Hussain whose uncle Kunwar Hussain is the BSP candidate, again leading to a split in the Muslim votes. Similarly, in Saharanpur, if Congress candidate is the nephew of former MP Rashid Masood, the infamous Imran Masood of the “chop Modi infamy”, SP candidate is Shadaan Masood, the son of Rashid Masood. Thus in a communally charged atmosphere, BJP MLA Raghav Lakhan Pal is expected to easily sail through from here.

Development politics at centre stage

Rampur is a great example of how a combination of development politics and the electoral non-viability of Muslim vote is at the heart of the new BJP that has emerged under Modi. Rampur was a seat that BJP could only win once in the last 5 elections with a wafer thin margin of 0.6% in 1998 and that too only by fielding a Muslim candidate (Naqvi), even when there was a wave in favour of the party all over UP. Today’s BJP is ahead in Rampur despite fielding a Hindu because today’s BJP is talking only about 24/7 bijlee or about the massive failure of state government in creating viable business models for the sugarcane farmers or about lack of jobs for the Jat youth outside the agricultural domain.

Indeed, Modi, in his speeches has always made it very clear that his agenda for 2014 doesn’t include Ayodhya or Mathura… even the Muzaffarnagar riots don’t find any mention in his speeches, despite pressure from cadre and supporters. This no nonsense approach to governance and development have endeared BJP to a large section of the floating vote which would have otherwise gone to SP/BSP.

This is essentially the defining factor of 2014, while the Hindu vote is in favour of the BJP, it is a positive vote for development, but the Muslim vote is nothing but a negative vote against Modi which is still stuck in a time-warp of old secular-communal paradigms. This is also the collective failure of the so called left leaning secular parties who have failed to create any positive narrative for the Muslim vote.

The turnout factor and current trends

It is widely expected that there could be a massive turnout by Muslim voters this time in western UP. Our own analysis suggests that Muslim voter turnout in this region could be in the range of 75 to 80%. RSS cadre are bracing themselves for an enormous exercise of mass mobilization to counter this Muslim turnout. If RSS succeeds in increasing the Hindu voter turnout to above 65%, then BJP will have a huge advantage over all other parties. In this battle of BJP v/s Muslims, other political parties seem to be suffering a major disadvantage.

As of today, out of the 21 seats from west-UP that are supposed to go to polls in the first two phases on 10th and 17th April, BJP is definitely ahead in 12 seats and may easily end up winning 15 parliamentary constituencies if this trend holds on till polling day. In order to understand the prevailing mood here, one must travel to Mathura and Baghpat, where the father-son duo of Ajit Singh and Jayant Chaudhary are both trailing as per ground reports available till the 30th of March! Yes, two “outsiders”, former Mumbai top-cop, Satyapal Singh and the evergreen Bollywood Dream Girl, Hema Malini, are leading in Baghpat and Mathura respectively!

Such a great showing by the BJP would enthuse the party cadre tremendously going into the future phases of polls in UP, Bihar and the heartland, whereas other parties will find it difficult to keep the morale of its soldiers intact. We will, of course, know the detailed trends only on the 10th and 17th of April. We here at 5Forty3 would be doing a detailed scrutiny of the day’s polling trends on all the days of election with live data analysis at an interval of every two hours.


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The 1989 Advani Parallel for Modi in 2014

A major milestone of BJP’s history came about on September 25th 1989 when the party’s national executive met at the Shanmukhananda auditorium in Bombay. It was in the run-up to the 8th Lok Sabha elections that many opposition stalwarts and ideologues were trying to bring about an alliance between the BJP and the Janata Dal to oust the Bofors-tainted Rajiv Gandhi regime. The main stumbling block for such an alliance to fructify was V.P. Singh who had recently joined the Dal and was vehemently opposed to what he berated as a “communal party” (at least in public). One of the chief negotiators from the saffron camp for a broad opposition coalition was Bhaurao Deoras a genial RSS man who had friends cutting across party lines. Deoras suggested only seat sharing instead of an alliance as a solution to the vexed problem of lack of opposition unity.

A foxy V.P. Singh wanted seat sharing only in states like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, but wanted to keep BJP out of the loop in the then undivided UP and Bihar which together accounted for as many as 140 MPs. He wanted to ride on BJP’s strength in Western India but was unwilling to forego Muslim voters in the heartland. Many in the saffron circles, still weary of a 1984 like result when BJP spectacularly under-performed by winning just 2 seats, were willing to make compromises of all kinds to stay politically relevant. In fact, it is quite well-known among the saffron camp followers that the top leadership of the Sangh and the still fledgling BJP were inclined to accept seat-sharing arrangement on V.P. Singh’s terms for the ostensible reason of defeating Rajiv Gandhi.

One man though stood strong on his ground, rejecting any purely opportunistic seat-sharing arrangement. He spoke thus in the Bombay national executive of September 1989, “If they come, with them; if they don’t, without them; and if they oppose us, in spite of them… irrespective of what the Janata Dal does, we are determined to get rid of this most incompetent and corrupt Rajiv Gandhi government”. He stuck to the principle of either a seat-sharing arrangement everywhere or nowhere.

Only one man possessed such clarity of thought in the initial years of the BJP, he was none other than Lal Krishna Advani, the then president of the party. His tough stance stood the party in good stead as BJP made a historic leap from 2 to 85 MPs in the 1989 elections. It was indeed a strange long jump seldom seen in democratic elections anywhere in the world, let alone in India. BJP had arrived on the national scene, and from that point in time of history, the party has never looked back.

BJP vs JD

Had Advani not stuck to his guns in 1989, BJP may well have suffered the fate of the Janata Dal which kept shrinking with each passing election even as BJP kept growing. Today Janata Dal does not exist, while BJP is the only national alternative to the Congress. But, unfortunately, the same Lal Krishna Advani who once conquered all the adversaries of the BJP with his clarity of thought, is today a confused soul. It was Advani who had articulated in the same Bombay session of 1989 that BJP believed in positive secularism, whereas Congress and other parties believed in vote secularism. He had then gone on to define positive secularism as “justice for all and appeasement to none”, a political philosophy that is the corner stone of Modi’s BJP in 2014!

Political philosophies are never prisoners of individual leaders, for age cannot wither them nor custom stale them. As today’s Modi speaks of “Constitution as the only holy book and India as the only religion”, the Advani of today sulks that his party is not as “inclusive” as it should be! As today’s Modi speaks of governance for all and appeasement for none, the Advani of today is more enamoured by the pseudo ideas of “inclusive growth” propagated by the likes of Nitish Kumar. As today’s Modi wants to take a decisive right turn in the economic trajectory of India, the Advani of today is all praise for socialist leaky cauldrons like NREGA. History has a strange sense of humour reserved for old men who refuse to gracefully accept their own ideas transforming into more viable political entities. History ridicules them as a petulant child who cries for his lost toy.

L.K. Advani’s spectacular achievements of the 1990s are indeed praiseworthy, but it must also be remembered that it was Advani who made it possible for the BJP to go below the 20% mark for the first time in two decades in 2009. When a party goes into the sub-20% vote-share region, its electoral significance gets reduced by a factor much larger than what is borne out by mere numbers, for seat conversions are almost halved in late teens as compared to early 20s. In simple terms, a party that goes into the sub-20% vote share is clearly on a path to national suicide!

20th PercentileBJP was in danger of going the Janata Dal way of disintegrating into many regional parties, but it has avoided that disaster almost at the last moment by reinventing itself. A large part of BJP’s reinvention has been brought about by one man alone, Narendrabhai Modi. As BJP is once again set to make a giant leap like it did in 1989, Advani and his cabal are proving to be the biggest hurdle. Today’s Advani probably believes that his own political ambitions are far greater than the political philosophy he has given birth to. What else explains his dramas every day and the deliberate attempts to sabotage the party’s chances by forcing wrong MP candidates at crucial levels? Let us do four simple case studies spread out in four different parts of India to understand this phenomenon of wrongful candidate selection;

Bidar (Karnataka): After long deliberations, BJP has fielded Bhagwant Khuba, a virtually unknown entity from this seat that is represented by former CM Dharam Singh of the Congress. It was widely speculated in Karnataka political circles that state unit of the BJP had sold out to Mr Singh who is virtually non-ambulant due to age related disorders. B.S. Yeddyurappa tried valiantly to put up a fight against Dharam Singh by nominating someone far more capable (Suryakant Nagamarpalli) but to no avail. The state unit of the BJP which sabotaged the chances of the party is extremely close to Advani.

Sonepat (Haryana): Any child in Sonepat will tell you that BJP had a great chance of winning this seat if it had nominated Pradeep Sangwan, but instead the ticket was given to a Brahmin Congressman who was even rejected by Congress in an assembly seat! That too in a totally Jat dominated seat with more than 5 lakh Jat votes where there are hardly 5k Brahmin voters. BJP’s ticket distribution in Haryana only points to one thing, that the party is averse to creating Jat leadership in the state to take on Hooda. With such support from BJP, CM Hooda is an extremely happy man today! Once again the Advani faction is said to be the sole culprit of this Haryana disaster.

Hoshiyarpur (Punjab): Phagwara MLA, Som Prakash was virtually believed to have won this seat this time on a BJP ticket (he had lost it narrowly by 366 votes in 2009), until the party interfered (read as Sushma Swaraj) to give ticket to a definite loser Vijay Sampla. It is believed that the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha virtually made it a prestige issue that Sampla be given the party ticket, lest she walked out of the CEC meeting. Does one need to point out the Advani connection?

Rajgarh (Madhya Pradesh): Try and ask BJP cadre here about Mr Rodmal Nagar and all you would get is blank stares. Nagar is BJP’s candidate to take on the Congress in a seat said to be a stronghold of Digvijay Singh. If ever there was a chance of BJP wresting this seat from the Congress, this was the one, as BJP was on a historic high in Madhya Pradesh coupled with a strong anti-Congress wind blowing across the heartland, it was indeed a cocktail of success made to order. It is still a mystery as to why such a lightweight as Rodmal Nagar was recommended by Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Sushma Swaraj (both very close to Advani).

These are just a few examples as there are scores of such other abject surrender stories woefully told by hapless BJP workers (Udampur in Jammu, Basti and Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh, Chhindwara in MP… the list is long). One aspect is almost clear to any unbiased observer of the BJP – that the battle to win 230+ is all but over now, for the party has already given up on many seats even before the first vote is cast. Now it is possibly the battle for 200. At least now Modi should take a leaf out of the Advani parallel of 89; had Advani given into the compromise formulas of many BJP leaders, history would not have been created in 1989. Narendra Bhai should demonstrate the same fearlessness in dealing with elders of BJP today, for he has a historic role to play – the deliverance of India. Individuals like Advani don’t matter beyond Dilli TV studio debates, what really matters and what history will judge you upon is the doctrine that you adapt. Positive Secularism will outlast Advani many times over.


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Analysis of the 4th list of the BJP – Part 2: North India

The battle for 2014 will not be just about localized pulls and pressures of sub-regional satraps. Narendra Modi, by his aggressive 9 month campaign all over India, has ensured that a big part of the coming election will be about a national vote of governance where Modi is the central theme. Yet, one cannot fully wish away local factors in the election of MPs. We have been arguing for weeks now here at 5Forty3 that ticket distribution is the key to success for BJP, but somehow the party has managed to bungle up in this process of giving party tickets. BJP may yet win 2014, but it may struggle to cross the 200 mark because of some horribly wrong ticket distribution decisions in key states.

Despite some amount of heartburn, BJP tickets in important heartland states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc. have been reasonably accurate, keeping the sole criteria of winnability as the theme. Yes, there have been duds in UP and Bihar too, like a Sakhsi Maharaj here or a Daddan Mishra there or a Ramakant Yadav somewhere else, but overall chemistry seems to be right and BJP is heading for a good performance in these states.

What is baffling is that the same party seems to be somehow strangely reluctant to get its act together in the north-western Jammu-Punjab belt, where ticket distribution can be described as pedestrian at best. What is happening behind the scenes is anybody’s guess, but one wonders why Narendra Bhai is not objecting to this abject surrender of the party? Is there really a powerful Dilli cabal based in BJP which is trying to sabotage the party’s chances of reaching beyond 220-230? Are there secret agreements to help out “friends” from the Congress (and the so called left-secular family) to win personal seats? Or is this plain incompetence? Let us try and start our analysis today with Punjab and Haryana.

Punjab and Haryana

Put together these two states have the potential to send almost a dozen BJP MPs to the parliament and there has been a very strong Modi wind (let us not yet call it a wave in the Punjabi context) blowing in these parts of India for months now. BJP seems to have given up all its advantage by getting its chemistry wrong badly. Purely going by ticket distribution mistakes alone, BJP has probably sacrificed half of its MPs at the altar in this region. Coupled with the loss of 1, if not 2 MPs in Jammu, this is a big blow to mission 200+, let alone mission 272.

Amritsar: At the outset, fielding Arun Jaitley looks like a very good decision of the BJP, for it ensures that BJP wins this seat again. Navjot Singh Sidhu, the ever sulking Sardar, has been reasonably placated by his political guru, Jaitley, so there won’t be much opposition from his side, while the Akalis too are happy to accommodate a high profile name like Arun Jaitley from an important seat like Amritsar. The city voters of the four assembly segments of Amritsar (North, West, Central and East) who were fed up with cricketer turned politician, Sidhu, are now again looking at BJP with hope, while the rural voters of Raja Sansi, Majitha and Ajnala are under the control of Shiromani Akali Dal. Had BJP again nominated Sidhu, then the Akalis would have ensured that the rural voters of those three assembly segments would have turned against BJP. Now, Jaitley will likely take this seat with a big margin.

Hoshiyarpur: Only once we move away from Amritsar, to the second seat of Hoshiyarpur does the rot become visible. Maybe the price paid for Jaitley’s sojourn in Amritsar is too steep for the party? There are two strong factions in Punjab BJP – the Kamal Sharma faction led by the state unit president and the Ashwani Sharma faction led by the Pathankot MLA – who are always at loggerheads. The Kamal Sharma faction is close to the Badals and was vehemently opposed to Sidhu’s nomination from Amritsar, so when BJP high-command obliged them, the Ashwani Sharma gang became obviously restless. In order to placate the second faction (so that all of them would work together for Jaitley’s victory), BJP seems to have made a compromise of sorts by allocating the Hoshiyarpur reserved seat to Vijay Sampla of the Ashwani Sharma faction. It is a well-known fact that Phagwara MLA Som Prakash was a much more formidable candidate from Hoshiyarpur (borne by multiple surveys in that constituency, of which data we at 5Forty3 have access to). Som Prakash, a former DC of Jalandhar and an emerging Dalit face of the BJP had lost Hoshiyarpur LS seat in the 2009 LS Polls (in a Congress wave of sorts) by merely 366 votes. As a result of all this, Vijay Sampla is struggling in this otherwise sure-shot BJP seat (it was reported in the local media that Sushma Swaraj backed Vijay Sampla vehemently, so the RSS backing of Som Prakash came a cropper).

Chandigarh: BJP’s woes in Chandigarh continue even after a decade and a half (had written this about Chandigarh, a few weeks ago, read). Sanjay Tandon, Harmohan Dhawan and Satyapal Jain the triumvirate of BJP in Chandigarh have constantly been at loggerheads for years now and as the adage goes, an outsider has benefited from this internal fight. It is widely believed that Satyapal Jain, the former two time MP from here suggested Kirron Kher’s name as a compromise formula between the three factions and the party high command accepted it. Although Chandigarh is a very cosmopolitan city, voters here do not take very well to “outsiders”, so it would be a difficult task for Mrs Kher to defeat the much tainted Pawan Kumar Bansal. AAP may not find much resonance here, but Gul Panag may get some crucial anti-Congress votes, further hurting the BJP.

Ambala: The very fact that Kumari Selja opted out of this seat tells the story of how badly the Congress is placed here, which has also apparently demoralized many grass-root workers of the party. BJP has nominated former MP, Ratan Lal Kahariya, who had won this seat in 1999 and had lost in 2009 (to Selja) by a very low margin of less than 2%. It is believed by many observers that this time Congress maybe out of contest from here at least in 3-4 assembly segments where the fight would be between BJP and BSP. As of today, BJP is ahead in Ambala city, Kalka, Panchkula, Mulana and Naraingarh assembly segments.

Kurukshetra: Naveen Jindal represents this seat and he still has tremendous clout here. BJP has nominated Rajkumar Saini, who is seen by many as a lightweight and lacking in stature to take someone as powerful as Jindal against whom there are serious allegations. It was widely speculated in the run-up to ticket distribution that BJP would put up some stalwart in this constituency (even the name of Sidhu was doing the rounds for quite some time) in order to give Jindal a run for his money, but surprisingly all parties seem to have nominated “soft” candidates against the Congress sitting MP. Even AAP, which makes big noise about corruption has nominated a complete novice much the chagrin of local AAP workers who have alleged that the party is soft on the Jindals.

Sonepat: A very recent Congress turncoat, Ramesh Kaushik has been bafflingly given the BJP ticket! One wonders what BJP managers were thinking when they allocated this seat to a Brahmin?! That too, a Brahmin imported from the Congress in a seat which has overwhelming number of Jat voters (more than 5lakh plus) and less than 5000 Brahmins! The party’s logic that since already 3 Jat leaders are contesting in Sonepat, a non-Jat leader had been chosen, is in such bad taste that it can’t even be considered a joke. Mr Kaushik was even denied a Congress MLA ticket in the 2009 assembly elections from here, but BJP has chosen to resurrect him. No wonder then that BJP’s state unit secretary and youth leader, Pradeep Sangwan, has resigned from his post and has decided to contest as an independent. What did the BJP leaders’ smoke before making this decision is a mystery that needs to be solved.

Rohtak: National president of the Kisan Morcha, Om Prakash Dhankhar has been chosen as the BJP’s candidate from here to take on the almost impossible sounding Deepender Singh Hooda who had won this seat by a whopping 4.5 lakh votes in 2009. There is some resentment here too among other aspirants like former MLA Naresh Malik and national secretary of the party, Abhimanyu Singh. Dhankhar is also seen as an outsider to this constituency, but he is probably the best choice the party has made for this herculean task. It will indeed be a mammoth task to defeat Congress from here.

Bhiwani-Mahendragarh: Former CM, Bansilal’s grand daughter and sitting Congress MP, Shruti Chaudhary is in trouble here. BJP has nominated recently joined Congress MLA, Dharambir Singh, who has considerable clout in this region. This could well be a three-cornered fight, but BJP is reportedly ahead in 5 out of 9 assembly segments as of today. Apart from Jats, Aroras and Khatri voters play a crucial role here (4-5 lakh votes).

Gurgaon and Faridabad: Rao Inderjeet Singh (sitting MP of Congress) and Krishnapal Gurjar (sitting MLA of BJP from Tigaon) have been nominated from these seats respectively. Both the seats are closer to the NCR and are interestingly poised in a multi-cornered fight. BJP seems to have an edge in both the seats, but even a minor late swing could change matters drastically, so we will have to keep a close watch on these two in the coming weeks.

Delhi

BJP seems to have learnt its lessons from the December experience, so it has shown some thinking out of the box in Delhi by nominating some very interesting names as LS candidates (while Congress still has its hubris intact and has named 5 sitting MPs despite last year’s severe drubbing in the assembly elections). Yet, BJP could have done more, for instance, persuading Kiran Bedi to contest from either Chandni Chowk or New Delhi would have been a great move that would have potentially proved to be a death-knell for AAP. Similarly, just for electoral reasons, having Subramainian Swamy, seen as a crusader against the dynastic corruption, in one of the Delhi seats would have sent hugely positive signals down the line. For instance, BJP should have positioned Swamy as a champion against corruption who walks the talk unlike Kejriwal who is all talk and no action. Whatever be Swamy’s past equation with BJP-RSS, Modi should try and utilize the services of Dr Subramanian Swamy, if not for his vast experience and inherently right socio-political and economic outlook, but at least for the simple reason that a Subramanian Swamy as a friend is far more useful than a Subramanian Swamy as an enemy is lethal.

Chandni Chowk: This could be a tight 3-cornered fight, where Kapil Sibal cannot be simply ruled out because AAP may eat into a lot of anti-Sibal votes. Does Harshvardhan stand a chance? Definitely yes, in fact, BJP has an edge as of now in at least 4 assembly segments. If AAP divides the minority votes, then it is advantage BJP, but if it divides anti-Sibal votes, then it is advantage Congress and if it does both then it is advantage AAP. Had Kiran Bedi been nominated from here, it would have been game-set-and-match for the BJP, but now it’s a close race that we need to follow.

North East Delhi: BJP has a distinct advantage in this seat and has done a great job by nominating Bhojpuri superstar, Manoj Tiwari who has tremendous fan following among the heartland voters – there are 45% Purvanchali voters in this constituency. AAP’s candidate has created some heartburn among its MLAs, which may or may not affect the party as its legislators do not have any personal clout. Congress, which is currently placed in the 3rd position is banking mostly on the 25% Muslim votes to win from here, which may get divided this time, especially because BSP has fielded a rebel Congress Muslim leader from here. In the Delhi assembly, BJP has 5, AAP-3 and Congress -2 MLAs.

East Delhi: Another inspired choice by BJP in the form of a new age Yoga Guru who has tremendous following and also derives support from AOL. This is a seriously three-cornered fight, as Congress’s Sandeep Dixit is one of those rare Congress leader’s here who still has touch with ground realities, while AAP has good support base here and BJP has shown great deal of invention in its ticket distribution. As of now, it looks like Sandeep Dixit is ahead, but this can go any which way, so we will put it in the “too-close-to-call” category.

New Delhi: Just the sheer fact that AAP had won 7 out of 10 MLA’s in this parliamentary seat, including the biggie, Arvind Kejriwal defeating Sheila Dixit, makes it an AAP seat by default. BJP has nominated Meenakshi Lekhi, who may end up as a brave loser, but had the party nominated Subramanian Swamy from here, he would definitely have taken the fight to the opposition camp. In all this milieu, sitting MP Ajay Maken of the Congress is virtually out of the race.

North-West Delhi: BJP is strong in this seat and has nominated its neo Dalit face, Udit Raj who seems to have an edge, especially considering that AAP has messed up its ticket distribution (Mahendra Singh has retired from contest and the uber controversial Rakhi Birla is likely to be the party candidate from here). BJP has 6 sitting legislators and AAP and Congress have two each.

West and South Delhi: BJP has nominated Parvesh Verma and Ramesh Bidhuri from these seats respectively. Both seats could be tough for the party in a three cornered fight.

Bihar

Patna Sahib: Shatrugna Sinha has been re-nominated from this seat, although there were reports that he might be dropped this time for his less than cordial relationship with Modi and co. Sinha who had won the last election by a big margin of over 30%, still has tremendous following here. It is also widely believed that filmstar Sinha’s close ties with Bihar CM Nistish Kumar will ensure that the JDU tacitly supports him in this election.

Maharajganj: Sitting Chapra MLA and ex labour resources minister, Janardhan Singh Sigriwal has been nominated by the BJP from here to take on Prabhunath Singh who had won a by election on the RJD ticket with a huge 1.5 lakh margin, which was a precursor to Nistish’s falling graph. As of today, RJD enjoys an edge on this seat and it would require a lot of work from the BJP to wrest this seat which is dominated by Thakur, Brahmin and Yadav votes.

Chhattisgarh

All the tickets are along expected lines, except for Kanker and Rajnandgaon. In Kanker, BJP has replaced sitting MP with minister, Vikram Usendi, who had surprisingly won his Antagarh assembly seat in December despite a counter-current in that region. In Rajnandgaon, sitting MP Madhusudan Yadav has been denied ticket to make way for CM Raman Singh’s son Abhishek Singh, which is setting dangerous precedents in the saffron camps (with MP CM, Shivraj Singh too likely to nominate his wife for Vidisha Assembly bypoll, BJP will soon start to resemble just another dynastic party; one more reason why Modi should be the model that BJP should build upon for the future). The two other constituencies that we should look out for are Sarguja and Bilaspur where again new candidates (Kamalbhan Singh and Lakhanlal Sau respectively) have been nominated in the first LS polls after the death of the towering Dilip Singh Judeo. BJP should easily win anywhere between 8 to 11 seats in Chhattisgarh as per ground reports.

Uttarakhand

The Uttarakhand list too is along expected lines, including the candidature of Pokhriyal from Hardwar which may irritate purists, but the fact is that he easily passes the “winnability” criteria. With strong local and national anti-incumbency, BJP should reap a rich harvest from this Himalayan state.


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Analysis of the 4th list of BJP – Part 1: The UP 53

BJP came up with its 4th list of candidates for the LS polls over the weekend and it looks like finally the jigsaw is falling in its place. As would be the case with any political party, especially the frontrunner, there is some amount of heart burn among those who have been denied a ticket to fight elections, but overall BJP seems to have avoided any major mishaps. For an antagonistic media and the intellectual class who were pinning their last hopes on a big fight erupting in the saffron camp vis-à-vis Sushma Swaraj-Murli Manohar Joshi v/s the new BJP, were left disappointed. Even minor acrimony in the form of Kalraj Mishra-Lalji Tandon types didn’t arise, so the newspapers started reporting names like former MLA, Ram Iqbal Singh and Nawal Kishore Yadav etc. who are not recognizable even within their own constituencies – such is the precipice of the intellectual falling down.

There is one clear pattern that is emerging from the BJP ticket distribution this time, that there is no pattern at all! For instance, in Bihar’s first list of 20 odd names, there were as many as 9 new entrants, but hardly 4 names out of 53 announced in UP can be termed as outsiders. What does this tell us? BJP is looking purely at electoral math independent to each state rather than working on any single political philosophy. Thus if bringing outside talent suits the political environment prevailing in Bihar, then a pro-BJP wave in UP only helps core ideological elements rather than turncoats. This “winnability being the sole criteria” will hold the party in good stead in the summer of 2014 notwithstanding whatever minor acrimonies are as of today.

There is one surprisingly negative aspect to BJP’s ticket distribution though – it seems the party somehow doesn’t have the same clarity in the smaller north-western states (the Punjab-Jammu belt) as in the heartland (UP-Bihar region). As it is the Jammu shenanigans has already become famous, now BJP seems to have made a mess in Punjab and parts of Haryana too. Will these small bits and pieces hurt BJP, or will the larger picture camouflage these minor indiscretions remains to be seen.

Uttar Pradesh

The 53 names announced from UP are a unique balancing act that has Amit-Shah and Rajnath Singh written all over it (there are some reports suggesting that the western part of the state had that latter’s imprint while the eastern parts were left to the former). Could this list have been better? The answer to that question would always be yes, but then the nature of elections is such that trade-offs are simply unavoidable. The bottom line is that this probably is the best possible list of 53 names that the party could have come up with under the circumstances. Now let us analyse UP as four sub-regions, for Uttar Pradesh is literally a country within a country.

Purvanchal

This is the Bhojpuri heartland of eastern Uttar Pradesh which shares its socio-cultural moorings with western Bihar (the Buxar-Champaran belt) which was historically ruled by Kashi Naresh (the emperor of Benares) with the oldest city in the world, Varnasi as its capital. Purvanchal is not only made up of 23 LS seats of Uttar Pradesh but also influences a dozen LS seats of western Bihar. Thus with a chunk of 35 MPs, the political importance of this region can never be overestimated. Amit Shah, the trusted lieutenant of Modi and in-charge of UP affairs, had realized long ago that winning Purvanchal would be the key to mission 2014 so he was always clear about BJP’s prime ministerial nominee contesting from this region. Although there is no real data to prove that a popular leader contesting in a particular region makes any difference to the party’s eventual seat tally, what cannot be denied at all is that Modi’s contest from here has immensely enthused ordinary workers.

Varanasi: Narendra Bhai Damodardas Modi, BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate, will be contesting from the oldest city of the world. BJP has three sitting MLAs in Varanasi North, South and Cantonment assembly segments, which have total voters of about 12 lakh plus. Assuming 60% voting at least, roughly 7 lakh Varanasi city voters (of all the three assembly segments) should go out to vote on the 12th of May as Varanasi will go to polls on the last day of polling. Our current conservative estimates based on ground reports (not on actual survey) suggest that BJP and Modi should take an almost unassailable lead by getting around 4 lakh votes (out of 7 lakh possible turnout in the city). There are roughly 7 lakh voters in the two other Kurmi dominated assembly segments of Rohaniya and Sevapuri. The Kurmis, like any other OBCs in the heartland have tremendous goodwill for NaMo, so BJP should once again get anywhere about 2-3 lakh votes in these two assembly segments put together, assuming a turnout range of 55-60%. In the 2009 LS polls, BJP’s Murli Manohar Joshi had won this seat by a margin of 17k after securing 2 lakh+ votes. This time we are projecting that Modi could get anywhere between 5 to 6 lakh votes and win this seat easily with a margin of 3-5 lakhs, no matter who contests against him. Rating: Super Positive

Salempur: Ravindra Kushwaha has been given the party ticket from this Kushwaha dominated seat in a strategically brilliant move, for he happens to be the son of Hari Kewal Sharma, a four time Samajwadi Party MP from Salempur. Former PM, Chandrashekhar’s son Pankaj Shekhar was eyeing this seat, but BJP seems to have kept only winnability as the criteria in deciding the candidature. There has been some resentment among BJP leaders like Ram Iqbal Singh about ticket being given to a new inductee, but most of these leaders are well past their sell-by dates. Rating: Positive

Bhadohi: Virendra Singh Mast, a product of the Ayodhya movement and twice MP during the 90s from neighbouring Mirzapur, has once again been resurrected by the party despite him losing 1999 and 2004 LS polls and even failing to save deposit in a by-election from Ballia necessitated by the death of former PM Chandrashekhar. Many see his candidature as a wasted opportunity, but the fact is that Virendra Singh still has clout and has a decent chance of emerging victorious in a close three cornered fight between BJP, SP and BSP, especially because he has been working on the ground for the last couple of years. With the prevailing Modi wave in this region, BJP should manage to take this seat, where it had finished a distant fifth in 2009 behind parties like Apna Dal, but the 4 lakh plus Brahmin votes will be crucial for the party in the end analysis. Rating: Average

Chandauli: Here the contest is mainly between SP and BSP, BJP has nominated ex-MLA, Mahendranath Pandey who has the dubious distinction of getting only 57k votes and finishing fifth in Badohi in 2009. Only a massive Modi wave can potentially cause a miraculous victory for BJP here. Rating: Negative

Jaunpur: Former minister Umanath Singh’s son K.P. Singh has been given the party ticket from this important upper caste bastion in a move that has surprised many observers. Here BSP’s Dhananjay Singh (sitting MP), who is widely seen as a sort of Rajput Robinhood was ahead in the race until now. Can K.P. Singh recapture this seat? There are two X factors that will decide BJP’s fate here – 1) Swami Chinmayanand, a former minister of state for Home in the Vajpayee government and four time MP (including Jaunpur in 1999) can create mischief for BJP although his clout has decreased considerably over the last decade and 2) support of local BJP leaders like Seema Dwivedi, the Mungra-Badshahpur MLA and 2009 MP contestant who is upset at being denied ticket this time. Congress has nominated popular Bhojpuri Superstar, Ravi Kishen from this seat who may also dent the ‘secular’ votes adding drama to the contest. Rating: Average

Machhlishahr: Former Apna Dal leader Ram Charitra Nishad has been nominated from here. This constituency will see a three cornered fight between SP, BSP and BJP, in which sitting MP Toofani Saroj of SP seems to have an edge. BJP can still win this seat if it can get the crucial support of Khateek voters who seem to be shifting allegiances in the 2014 polls. Rating: Below Average

Azamgarh: Sitting MP Ramakant Yadav who has won this seat thrice since 1999 on three different party tickets has been re-nominated by the BJP. Ground reports suggest that there is considerable local level anti-incumbency against Mr Yadav, especially among the upper caste Rajput community. He is still considered as “Yadavon ka sher” in Azamgarh though. There is also deep polarization among Muslims in this constituency who are backing SP to the hilt here. If Mulayam Singh contests from this seat then it could be almost a single horse race, otherwise BJP can make a fight of it, but this is a difficult seat for the party to retain. Rating: Below Average

Roberstganj (SC): This is a seat where BJP still has definite presence as a party, but Chhotelal Kharwar has been given the party ticket much against the wishes of party cadre. There is a great deal of anti-incumbency against the non-performing Pakauri Lal Kol, the sitting MP of Samajwadi Party, but since BJP’s ticket here has left a lot to desire, this is now a three cornered fight that needs massive groundwork by the cadre to win. Rating: Average

Ghosi: Former minister Harinarain Rajbhar who had joined SP a few years ago only to return back to the saffron fold has been given ticket here. He used to represent Siar assembly seat in Ballia district during the 90s but had lost out after delimitation and was waiting for long to resurrect his defunct political career. It seems to be a calculated risk taken by Amit Shah to give ticket to Rajbhar instead of other contenders like Vijay Pratap Singh. Thakur votes will be crucial here and Modi wave may come to BJP’s aid. Rating: Average

Ballia: Bharat Singh is again one of those who is part of the “deadwood” of the BJP who had lost even the assembly election in 2012 by a big margin. This is a seat where Neeraj Shekhar (former PM Chandrashekhar’s son) still holds sway and it is unlikely that he would be defeated this time too. Rating: Negative

Gorakhpur: Yogi Adityanath had improved his victory margin from 1.5 lakhs in 2004 to 2 lakh+ in 2009, the guess is that he may double that margin this time with much higher turnouts expected. Rating: Super Positive

Bansgaon: This is again one of the strength areas of BJP where Yogi Adityanath wields influence and Kamlesh Paswan, the sitting BJP MP, has made his own in the last few years. As of today Paswan is ahead in all the 5 assembly segments with massive leads in Chauri-Chaura and Rudrapur areas. Rating: Positive

Lalganj: Neelam Sonkar has once again been given the BJP ticket to take on BSP’s Baliram. Sonkar who had lost the previous encounter by less than 40k votes is much stronger this time, and so is the BJP. As of today BJP is ahead in Nizamabad, Phoolpur-Pawai and Lalganj assembly segments, but the only problem area for the party and Sonkar is Atrauliya assembly segment as of now. Rating: Positive

Deoria: Kalraj Mishra has got the ticket from here much to the heartburn of former state unit president, Surya Pratap Shahi, whose supporters have even burnt effigies of Rajnatah Singh. This time BJP has an edge in this seat but a lot depends on how much support Kalraj Mishra will get from the local leaders of the BJP, especially the likes of two-time MP Prakashmani Tripathi and Surya Pratap Shahi. If BJP leaders and workers bury their differences (especially along Thakur-Brahmin fault-lines) then this is a sure-shot seat for the party, or else BJP will have to struggle to cross the finish line. BJP is ahead of its rivals in Deoria town, Pathardeva and Rampur Karkhana areas, but the problem areas are Fazlinagar and Tamkuhi Raj assembly segments. Rating: Positive

Maharajganj: This is the rare eastern-UP seat that Congress had won in 2009, but BJP has nominated Pankaj Chaudhary once again – he is a 4 time MP from here. This time again old warhorse Pankaj Chaudhary has an edge, especially as the sitting Congress MP has been a big under-performer. Recent recruits R.K. Misra and Prem Sagar Patel (formerly BSP) who were expecting an MP ticket from here could create some problems for Pankaj Chaudhary, but it is still quite difficult to see BJP losing this seat. Rating: Positive

Basti: This is one of the baffling decisions of the party, for Harish Dwivedi, who had not only lost the 2012 assembly election from Basti town by a margin of over 20k, but had also finished 3rd has been given BJP ticket. This is a seat which is usually given to Thakurs, so it is even more baffling that BJP has made such a poor choice. It is said among some circles that BJP president Rajnath Singh has scuttled the chances of many Thakur ticket seekers which has created all this mess. There was talk of Fateh Bahadur Singh getting the ticket from here which would have been a far better choice for the party. Rating: Negative

Western UP

This politically significant Jatland shares its demographics with Haryana, parts of eastern Rajasthan and outer Delhi. 5 of 10 BJP MPs from Uttar Pradesh came from out of these 27 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 election. BJP has announced 18 names in this region and is yet to decide on the remaining 9. With roughly 22-25% of the population, Jats are the most important political group of this region. Muzaffarnagar riots and the consequent polarization had made this one of the most favourable zones for the BJP, but there is some amount of heartburn among Jats because of ticket distribution. But the fact is that most Jat voters have already made up their mind to support BJP and the party has done a decent job of ticket distribution to keep all the other ethnic subgroups happy.

Muzaffarnagar: Of all the contenders in the fray for this very significant seat, BJP has chosen possibly the best man to represent the party instead of rabble rousers like Sangeet Som, which has sent a clear message that Modi’s agenda is one of development. Dr Sanjiv Baliyan, agricultural scientist is an emerging Jat icon and represents the suave face of Jat politics who talk of ideas to solve problems rather than simply create violent agitations. Dr Baliyan has the potential to be a new age Chaudhary Charan Singh in the next few years and create a dynamic shift in the socio-political landscape of Jats, which surely augurs well for the BJP. This is a seat that BJP will win with a thumping lead. Rating: Super Positive

Kairana: Again the choice was simply clear, Hukum Singh, the sitting MLA and a towering Gujjar leader who was seen as playing a major role in not only keeping the Hindus united but also calming the nerves by talking peace during the Muzaffarnagar riots. This should again give BJP an easy victory here. Rating: Positive

Saharanpur: Sitting MLA of Saharanpur, Raghav Lakhan Pal has been given the ticket from here which is a decent choice, notwithstanding the fact that sitting MP Jagadish Rana of the BSP was interested in BJP ticket. In the polarized atmosphere prevailing in this region, BJP should take this seat. Rating: Positive

Bijnor: Advocate Rajendra Singh has been nominated as BJP candidate here, but Kunwar Bharatendra Singh, the sitting MLA of Bijnor would have been a far better choice. Now it is almost a three cornered fight between BSP, BJP and RLD (especially after RLD nominated actress Jayaprada from here) with Chandpur, Hatinapur and Meerapur assembly segments holding the key. As of today, BSP seems to have an edge in this three-cornered battle. Rating: Below Average

Moradabad: Kunwar Sarvesh Singh of the Thakurdwara-Bilari royal family, a Bahubali of western UP and 5 time MLA of Thakurdwara has been re-nominated from this seat where he had lost to Mohammad Azharuddin by about 50k votes in 2009. This time BJP has a big lead in Thakurdwara, Barhapur and Moradabad town assembly segments which should help Mr Singh to easily sail through from this constituency. As Congress, which had won the previous election, has nominated Rampur royalty Noor Bano, there is a definite possibility of a split in minority votes between Congress and BSP giving BJP a clear edge. Rating: Positive

Rampur: With two time MP, Jayaprada shifting party and LS seat, there is a wave for change in this parliamentary constituency where BJP has nominated Naipal Singh, MLC. This is Azam Khan territory, where former UP CM Kalyan Singh still holds sway due to significant presence of Lodh votes. In a polarized atmosphere where Lodh votes are back to the saffron camp in a big way, BJP may win this seat from under Azam Khan’s nose. There was a section within BJP which was demanding ticket for Muqtar Abbas Naqvi, which would have been simply disastrous for the party, but Amit Shah and team seem to have once again kept “winnability” criteria on top. Rating: Average

Meerut: Rajendra Agarwal, sitting MP, has been re-nominated from here. With Congress nominee, actress Nagma being virtually out of contest even with RLD support, the main fight here would be between BJP and BSP. BSP will likely get the support of Muslims and a large section of Dalits, whereas BJP should get full support of Jats, OBCs and more importantly the upper-caste votes (which went to BSP in large numbers even in 2009). BJP is enjoying a clear lead in the three segments of Meerut (North, South and Cantt.) along with Hapur assembly segment, so it is advantage Mr Agarwal. Rating: Positive

Baghpat: Although a better candidate like say, Shahendra Singh Ramala, could have possibly made the BJP’s cause easier, but in the end analysis, former Mumbai top-cop, Satyapal Singh could be a giant killer here. History has shown us that usually it is the members of educated civil society who stand a better chance against established names in difficult electoral contests. Although Ajit Singh was on a back-foot after Muzaffarnagar, he seems to have regained some of the lost ground due to Jat reservation and Rakesh Tikait’s joining of RLD. This is now an almost equal contest with probably even a slight edge to Ajit Singh. Modi Nagar, Baghpat town and Siwal Khas assembly segments probably hold the key this time around. Rating: Average

Gautam Buddh Nagar and Bulandshahr (SC): BJP has nominated Dr Mahesh Sahrama and Dr Bhola Singh respectively from these constituencies and both are on a very strong wicket. BJP had lost Gautam Buddh Nagar narrowly last time by 15k votes and has re-nominated its sitting MLA from Noida. This time the party has significant leads in Noida, Khurja and Sikandrabad assembly segments, so it should be a much easier task to win. Similarly in Bulandshahr where Debai assembly segment had cost the party dearly last time, there is a big lead for BJP this time around. Rating: Positive

Aligarh and Firozabad: Both are difficult seats for BJP as Satish Gautam may find the going tough for himself and the party in Aligarh where Congress and BSP seem to be in a direct fight. Similarly, in Firozabad, three time MP, S.P Singh Baghel has been nominated by BJP, but he is facing a very tough battle against Akshay Yadav, Mulayam’s nephew and son of Ram Gopal Yadav. Rating: Below Average

Agra: Sitting MP of BJP, Dr Ramashankar Katheriya, has definite advantage from Agra so he has been re-nominated. Etmadpur and Jalesar assembly segments hold the key, for BJP seems to be reasonably ahead in two out of three Agra town assembly segments (North and South). In Jalesar, S.P. Singh Baghel still holds significant clout which may help BJP much in the upcoming polls. Rating: Positive

Mainpuri: It really doesn’t matter whom the BJP nominates, for this is Mulayam Singh Yadav stronghold and SP will likely win it again with a big margin. Rating: Negative

Etah: If Mainpuri belongs to Mulayam Singh, Etah is Kalyan Singh territory, so Rajvir Singh, his son is virtually undefeatable from here. Rating: Positive

Aonla, Bareilly and Philibit: Dharmendra Kashyap, Santosh Gangwar and Maneka Gandhi have been nominated from these seats. All three are stalwarts in their own right and are expected to win these seats easily for the BJP. Rating: Positive

Awadh

The central Uttar Pradesh region which had stopped supporting BJP for some time now, evidenced by the fact that BJP’s lone MP from entire Awadh region came from Lucknow in 2009, is once again looking towards the saffron camp with hope. Can BJP recreate its old magic is the million dollar question.

Lucknow: BJP president Rajnath Singh will be contesting from this party stronghold, which was once represented by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. BJP hasn’t lost this seat in close to 25 years, since 1991, so this is considered as a “safe seat” for the party. The only new X factor this time is that the last 5 BJP victories from here have come from Brahmin candidates, whereas this time a Thakur is contesting from here on the party ticket. In fact, this seat has been an unofficial Brahmin reserved constituency where Brahmins have always won it since 1971, except for a very low turnout 1989 election. Despite this history, Rajnath Singh is expected to win this seat by a big margin. Rating: Super Positive

Kanpur: Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, veteran BJP leader and possibly the tallest standing Brahmin face after Vajpayee has been allocated this urban seat which Congress had won in the previous three elections through Sriprakash Jaiswal. This seat should once again see a straight fight between BJP and Congress with others vying for a distant third position (including AAP). Congress as a party and Mr Jaiswal himself personally are both facing huge anti-incumbency so it is advantage Joshi here. Rating: Positive

Sultanpur: In a very good move, BJP has shifted Varun Gandhi to this Nehru-Gandhi loyalist seat. Here he is not only expected to win, but win big, especially now that Sanjay Singh has moved to the Rajya Sabha. Though Sanjay Singh’s wife Amita Singh is contesting on the Congress ticket from here, she might not be able to challenge Varun Gandhi. Of the 18% Brahmins, 27% OBCs, 6% Thakurs and even 24% Dalits, Varun will likely get a lion’s share of the votes, while the 21% Muslim votes may get divided between Congress and Shakeel Ahmed of SP. Varun Gandhi’s roadshows and Nukkad public meetings are attracting huge crowds, indicating which way the wind is blowing. Rating: Super Positive

Kheri: Ajay Mishra has been repeated by the BJP in a calculated risk by the party managers. He is the sitting MLA of Nighasan where he is likely to get a big lead of 30k+ (he had got a 20k vote lead even in 2009 LS polls). There is a huge vote polarization along religious lines here and since Congress and BSP have both fielded Muslims and SP has re-nominated Ravi Prakash Verma, BJP stands a decent chance of causing an upset victory. If Ajay Mishra manages to get leads in at least 2 out of three other assembly segments of Palia, Gola Gokrannath and Lakimpur, then BJP will be in the game. Rating: Average

Sitapur: Another of the Kurmi dominated seats where BJP has nominated Rajesh Verma, a new entrant to the party who was a two time MP from here on a BSP ticket and still holds considerable sway. This is a difficult seat for BJP to win, but in a multi-cornered fight with a Modi wave coupled with the personal hold of Mr Verma can help the party. Rating: Below Average

Hardoi: Usha Verma of the Samajwadi Party, who is also the sitting MP, has strong pockets of influence in this parliamentary seat and also there are hardly any negatives against her. BJP has bungled up by nominating Anshul Verma here, so SP has a clear advantage. Rating: Negative

Misrikh: BJP has nominated a very strong Smt Anju Bala for this reserved constituency, where a large number of Dalit voters, especially Chamars are expected to support her rather than the BSP. There are mainly 5 lakh Pasi voters, 4 lakh Chamar voters, 4 lakh Brahmin, 1.5 lakh Kurmi and 1 lakh Lodh voters here; BJP is expected to get a big chunk of Chamar, Brahmin and OBC vote making it easier for Anju Bala to win this seat. Rating: Positive

Unnao: It is difficult to understand the logic of nominating an outsider like Sakshi Maharaj in this Brahmin dominated seat (about 4 lakh Brahmin votes) where Congress’s Anu Tandon had won a thumping victory in 2009 with a margin of over 3 lakhs. Sakshi Maharaj is well past his prime and will need a herculean effort to defeat the very clinical Anu Tandon. Rating: Below Average

Mohanlalganj: This reserved constituency is a stronghold of the SP, which has re-nominated its sitting MP, Sushila Saroj and BJP has simply shown no “thinking out of the box” by nominating ex-MLA Kaushal Kishore who stands little chance of upsetting the Samajwadi applecart. Rating: Negative

Farrukhabad: This high profile seat of Salman Khurshid is likely to see a major change in this election, but BJP has nominated Kalyan Singh’s right-hand man, Mukesh Rajput who had unsuccessfully contested from here in 2004 LS polls but had subsequently joined Kalyan Singh’s RKP only to lose the 2012 assembly elections from Bhojpur (where he finished second, ahead of the BJP). The onus is now on Kalyan Singh to win this seat for BJP and defeat the current External Affairs Minister in the UPA government. This could well see a close 4-cornered fight like last time when hardly 10-15k votes separated each of the top 4 contestant. Kaimganj, Bhojpur and Farrukhabad assembly segments hold the key to victory here. Rating: Average

Etawah: In this SP bastion, about 1 lakh plus Chamar voters, 1 lakh plus Brahmin voters, 80k Rajput and 60k Lodh voters are all ganging up against the Samajwadis and in favour of the BJP which has wisely nominated Ashok Dohre who is resourceful enough to win this reserved seat. Rating: Average

Kannauj: Another SP stronghold has been attacked by the BJP, where once again a good nominee by the party in the form of Subrat Pathak is attracting all the upper caste votes of Brahmins, Thakurs and Baniyas (numbering up to 3 lakhs). If BJP manages to also get the non-Yadav OBC votes of roughly another 2 lakh plus, then a surprise defeat of SP (represented by Akhilesh and Dimple Yadav over the last 5 years) cannot be ruled out! No wonder Mulayam is suffering sleepless nights and keeps targeting Modi and BJP in every speech of his. Rating: Average

Fatehpur: Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the MLA from Hamirpur and a fiery speaker has been nominated from here. She has managed to completely polarize upper-caste (mainly Thakur) and Nishad votes in her favour. Currently BJP has taken big leads in Fatehpur and Khaga assembly segments and is also ahead in other areas. Right now BJP has a definite edge on this seat. Rating: Positive

Barabanki and Kaushambi: Both are difficult seats for BJP where Dalit votes, especially those of Pasis will make a big difference. In Barabanki, there are 6 lakh Dalit votes (about 60% of them Pasis) and 2 lakh Kurmi voters who will eventually decide who wins this seat. In Kaushambi too, BJP is facing an uphill task of attracting a combination of Dalit-Brahmin-OBC votes. Priyanka Rawat and Vinod Sonkar have been nominated from Barabanki and Kaushambi respectively. Rating: Below Average

Faizabad: 5 time MLA from Ayodhya and one of the original icons of Ram Janam Bhoomi movement has been nominated by the BJP to represent Faizabad in the 16th Lok Sabha, notwithstanding the heartburn it has caused to former MP Vinay Katiyar. Here again there is a BJP wave and the party is way ahead of the rest thanks to a very good ticket decision. Brahmins + Thakurs + Kurmis + Other Upper Castes account for close to 6 lakh voters here and all of them seem to be moving towards BJP, which is also getting a section of Dalit (Chamar) votes here. BJP is ahead in Ayodhya, Rudauli and Milkipur assembly segments as of today. Rating: Positive

Bahraich: Savitri Bai Phule, the sitting MLA of Balha is the BJP nominee here, which is another very good ticket by the party. As of today BJP is ahead in Balha, Bahraich and Mahsi assembly segments and is expected to have a very good showing in this parliamentary constituency. Rating: Average

Shrawasti: This is one of those dud decisions by the party that can possibly be overlooked in the overall scheme of things as Daddan Mishra is not only a deadwood but also very few Brahmin voters are present here (about 60-75k). One wonders how leaders like Daddan Mishra continue to survive despite finishing third in the 2012 assembly election (from Bhinga assembly segment of Shrawasti). Rating: Below Average

Bundelkhand

The lone seat that has been announced as of now is Jhansi, from where the veteran Sadhvi Uma Bharati will be contesting on the BJP ticket. She still has a larger than life presence here in Jhansi and should easily win this seat with a big margin. Rating: Super Positive

Note on Ratings Game:

Super Positive: Victory by big margin

Positive: BJP being ahead of the rest

Average: Tough contest but winnable for the BJP (especially in a wave election)

Below Average: BJP behind as of now, but the seat is not “unwinnable”, provided party puts in hard work and lady luck shines on its candidate

Negative: No chance of winning for BJP

(Part 2, consisting of non-UP states like Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab will be uploaded tomorrow)


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BJP’s 3rd List Analysis

Is there any correlation to the length of campaigning by candidates and the eventual result? The answer to that question is a bit complex, for if we take the few very recent examples of MP, Chhattisgarh Rajasthan and Delhi, then a definite pattern emerges – BJP had named its candidates well in advance in three of those states and won them decisively but lost Delhi by a whisker where it had inordinately delayed announcing the names of candidates. Similarly, Congress had messed up ticket distribution in MP where it lost big, but also lost Rajasthan where tickets were distributed in advance. Going back a little further in time, if we take a careful look at 2004 LS polls, we can discern that one of the factors that led to BJP’s under-performance was lesser campaign time available for candidates which probably helped a bigger organizational behemoth like the Congress party.

We can conclude from the above examples that everything else being equal, lesser campaign times would benefit Congress more than the BJP. Another factor that goes in favour of the Congress is that summer elections always adversely affect BJP more because of its core-vote base of urban middle classes, who after all is said and done, are averse to suffer the summer heat in order to exercise their democratic franchise. An interesting statistic is that BJP has always won big during winter elections than in summer elections – 1989 when BJP made the giant leap from 2 to 85, 1998 when BJP won the first near decisive mandate as the head of NDA and 1999 when BJP and NDA won a decisive mandate were all winter elections, whereas 2004 and 2009, when BJP lost to Congress were summer elections (even 1996 summer election was actually a big disappointment for BJP when it lost a historic opportunity to win a decisive or near-decisive mandate of 200 LS seats).

All of this may of course not matter in 2014, for in a wave election all the shortcomings can get camouflaged in the cloak of a flowing tide. BJP may yet win 2014 by default because of an anti-Congress wave in India or a pro-Modi wave in India or a wave for change in India… or for umpteen other possible waves. What still doesn’t make sense is the delay in announcing the names of candidates in crucial north Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, wherein some of the candidates will probably have less than 3 weeks to campaign! Imagine covering 600-900 odd polling booths in 20 odd days, which means these candidates are expected to cover 30-45 polling booths per day or roughly 2-3 polling booths every waking hour. This is not only suicidal but also downright criminal! How many more CEC meetings does the BJP have to undertake before surrendering all its first mover advantage in the 2014 campaign?

North India – The heartland

BJP has touched upon three important states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh in the third list, where the party has to win close to 80%+ seats if it has to have a realistic chance of forming a stable government. Let us start our analysis with the smaller state of Jharkhand, a state we had recently surveyed and had projected 11 seats to the BJP even before the party announced its candidates – a costly mistake, in hindsight. After the yawn-inducing candidate selection by BJP of the same tired old faces, it would be a big surprise if the party touches double digits. Where is the “new thinking” in BJP? What happened to a party that was supposed to be attracting new talent in hordes? All that is left for the party is a “wave” on which it must somehow ride towards victory post.

Ranchi: Ram Tahal Chaudhary has lost this seat twice narrowly to Congress’s Subodh Kant Sahay and he may well repeat that feat again in 2014! Former DGP and Cricket Administrator Amithabh Chaudhary is contesting on a JVM ticket making it a triangular contest and even if BJP somehow manages to win this seat it would be because of a national wave. Ranchi represents everything that is wrong with the thinking of BJP’s central leadership, for it is hell-bent on backing a losing horse just to keep its leaders happy. Yes Ram Tahal Chaudhary had won this seat thrice in 96, 98 and 99, but that was at the height of a BJP wave here when Jharkhand state was promised by the party in an undivided Bihar – now, it is a cheque that has already been encashed.

Hazaribagh: is now a fight of the dynasties as Congress has re-nominated the royal, Saurabh Narayan Singh who is also a two-time MLA and as if on cue, BJP has nominated Jayant Sinha whose father, Yashwant Sinha, has represented this constituency many times and has decent rapport with the voters (including minorities). In this upper-caste battle between BJP and Congress, the OBC and minority votes may prove to be crucial in the end analysis. Congress will use Lalu Prasad Yadav and BJP has its prime-ministerial candidate Modi to sway the OBC voters here. This is also a rare constituency where Muslims have very good working relationship with a BJP leader, Mr Yashwant Sinha, so Congress will find it difficult to cause an upset.

Dhanbad, Giridih and Khunti: In these three seats, BJP is ahead of its rivals and all three sitting MPs – Pashupatinath Singh, Ravindra Pandey and Karia Munda respectively – have been re-nominated, which was the only viable course of action for the party.

Kodarma: is a VIP seat as it is represented by ex CM, Babulal Marandi of the JVM. BJP has nominated the best possible candidate against Mr Marandi, the sate unit president, Ravindra Kumar Rai, who has half-a-chance of upsetting the Marandi applecart. If BJP has to wrest this seat, then it has to improve its performance among OBC voters, especially in Jamua and Bagodar assembly segments as tribal vote in any case would go to JVM. As of now Marandi is ahead in the race.

Lohardaga: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP Sudarshan Bhagat who had narrowly defeated Congress’s old warhorse, Rameshwar Oraon in 2009. Ex IPS Arun Oraon is now with the BJP but was expecting to get the party ticket here and it is not yet clear how he would react to ticket denial. If Arun Oraon works for the BJP then it would be an easy victory for Sudarshan Bhagat, else it’s a tight contest, especially if Chamra Linda, the sitting independent MLA of Gumla doesn’t contest. Thus the victory of BJP or Congress here could be decided by two external leaders – Arun Oraon and Chamra Linda.

Dumka: Sunil Soren of the BJP has his best chance of defeating Guruji (Shibu Soren), the grand old man of Santhal politics who is facing a big challenge of anti-incumbency here. It is possible that Babulal Marandi may contest from here on the JVM ticket, which could make this a very complex fight. We would have a clearer picture in a few days’ time, after Marandi’s possible nomination and Modi’s planned rally here.

Chatra: BJP has nominated a fresh face, Sunil Singh from here, but this is one of those constituencies where the party may be out of contest at the very outset, for the fight seems to be mainly between independent MP, Inder Singh Namdhari and RJD here.

Godda: BJP has once again re-nominated sitting MP Nishikant Dubey and Congress has reposed faith in Furkann Ansari. Dubey stands a decent chance of repeating his 2009 victory over Ansari who is facing big rebellion from within Congress in the form of Krishnanand Jha. This is the only seat in Santhal Paraganas where Congress still has some relevance, but may face defeat again this time as non-Muslims are unwilling to vote for the party as shown by our own recent survey.

Rajmahal and Palamau: are two seats where BJP has shown some out-of-the-box thinking and has made winning a very important criteria. In Rajamahal, BJP has replaced sitting MP with JMM strongman and sitting MLA of Barhait, Hemlal Murmu, who had only recently joined the party. In Palmau, BJP has nominated former DGP V.S. Ram who would be contesting against JMM rebel Kameshwar Baitha of AJSU, a former Maoist whom Ram had arrested as the DGP. BJP can win both these seats, especially with the prevalent Modi wave here.

Bihar

It is widely believed that Bihar is in the midst of a veritable Modi wave at present and Ram Vilas Paswan seems to have only added to that in the last few weeks. BJP has come up with a decent list of candidates for Bihar – a state where our own survey would be presented sometime next week. There is definitely fresh thinking in the BJP’s Bihar list which may give a rich harvest for the party in 2014.

At the very outset, it can be said that among the dozen sitting BJP MPs who have been re-nominated, about 8 are in a very strong position and there is no need to go into details of their constituencies – Smt Rama Devi (Sheohar), Dr Sanjay Jaiswal (Pashchim Champaran), Radha Mohan Singh (Purvi Champaran), Shahnawaz Hussain (Bhagalpur), Pappu Singh (Purnia), Hari Manjhi (Gaya), Sushil Kumar Singh (Aurangabad) and Kirti Azad (Darbhanga) are all expected to easily sail through in 2014. Two Independent MPs who are contesting on BJP ticket this time – Om Prakash Yadav who tamed the notorious Mohammed Shahbuddin in Siwan and Putul Devi, the widow of late Digvijay Singh, from Banka – should also easily win their respective constituencies.

In Katihar, Tariq Anwar of the NCP is no longer the powerhouse that he once was, so Nikhil Kumar Chaudhary who is also the sitting MP of BJP has a very good advantage on this seat in 2014. Pradeep Kumar Singh had won Araria by a narrow margin in 2009 against LJP, but since Paswan has joined NDA, he may find the going much easier this time around.

Saran: Rajeev Pratap Rudy has once again accepted the challenge of taking on Lalu Prasad Yadav in his home turf, where this time Yadav’s wife and former CM Rabri Devi is contesting on the RJD ticket. Rudy had lost in 2009 by about 50k votes but had given Lalu sleepless nights. This time the situation has changed a lot as there is a Modi wave in the state and the OBC votes (at least the non-Yadav ones) are consolidating behind BJP. Chapra, Sonepur, Garkha and Amnour assembly segments would be crucial for Rudy as he has to take leads in all of these. As of today, Chapra and Sonepur seem to be solidly behind BJP, so Rabri Devi might find the going a lot tougher than her husband last time. Hats off to Rajeev Pratap Rudy, one of those rare leaders of BJP’s permanently Delhi based, TV studio-hopping gang, who doesn’t look for a “safe seat” and is ready for a tough battle.

Pataliputra: A Yadav and OBC dominated parliamentary seat which is going to witness a three-cornered battle among Yadavs – Ram Kripal Yadav (BJP) v/s Misa Bharati (RJD) v/s Prof Ranjan Prasad Yadav (JDU). In this battle of OBCs, upper caste votes could prove to be crucial in the end which is the reason why BJP seems to have a minor edge. Ram Kripal Yadav has built a base in this constituency over the last couple of years and his ticket denial by Lalu was indeed a bad move. The sitting JDU MP has a clean image but may find it difficult to sustain a campaign without the support of BJP cadre.

Sasaram: As expected, BJP has given ticket to Chhedi Paswan, who recently resigned as JDU MLA and has considerable clout here. JDU is going to field retired IAS officer, K.P. Ramaiah from here. Lok Sabha speaker, Meira Kumar has been winning this seat for the last two elections, but may find it difficult in a 3 cornered fight. BJP is strong in Kargahar and Chainpur assembly segments and its NDA partner, LJP has strength in Bhabua assembly segment, while Mohania assembly segment is Chhedi Paswan’s stronghold. Thus with 4 out of 6 assembly segments leaning towards BJP, Meira Kumar is in big trouble.

Arrah: Here BJP has given ticket to one of its high profile new recruits, former home secretary, R.K. Singh. The party has considerable strength in Shahpur, Agiaon, Tarari and Sandesh assembly segments where it is expecting to take big leads and win this seat. What has made this seat difficult for BJP is that slain Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh’s son, Indu Bhushan is also contesting from here as a nominee of Desi Kisan Party. In the 2004 polls, Brahmeshwar Singh had contested from here as an independent and had secured 1.5 Lakh votes which had helped RJD win this seat. If Indu Bhushan gets anywhere near as many votes as his father then R.K. Singh could be in trouble

Ujiarpur: Hajipur MLA, Nityanand Rai has been given this difficult seat which could see a three cornered battle between BJP, JDU and RJD. This is one of those seats that can possibly go to the wires as there is no clear trend emerging as of yet.

Nawada and Begusarai: MLC Giriraj Singh who wanted to contest from Begusarai has been given Nawada, while Nawada MP Bhola Singh has been shifted to Begusarai. This shift has created heartburn among leaders and workers in both the constituencies and Giriraj Singh has even tried to get a change of seat post announcement. Bhola Singh apparently is in a better position to win Begusarai which also has considerable Muslim voters, but Nawada may be difficult for the BJP.

Valmiki Nagar: This is a JDU stronghold from where Baidyanath Prasad Mahto had won the 2009 elections with close to 2 lakh votes. This time there is rebellion within JDU against Mahato’s candidature as agriculture minister Narendra Singh and Transport minister Bishen Patel have been raising a red flag against the sitting MP. BJP has nominated Narkatiyaganj MLA, Satish Chandra Dubey for this seat who is expecting big leads from his home constituency and Ramnagar assembly segment. The split in Muslim votes this time is also a key factor, especially in assembly segments like Sikta.

Muzaffarpur and Madhepura: Sitting JDU MP, Jay Narayan Nishad’s son, Ajay Nishad has been nominated as BJP’s candidate from here, which has caused a lot of rebellion within saffron ranks. If the party doesn’t work together, then winning this seat would become a herculean task, especially as many BJP MLA’s, including Suresh Sharma of Muzaffarpur, are unwilling to ask votes for Nishad. In Madhepura, BJP has fielded Vijay Kumar Kushwaha, a JP-movement leader who was once considered as an equal of Nitish Kumar. He also happens to be the husband of Renu Kumari Kushwaha who quit this week as a minister in the Nitish government. With the Kushwaha votes shifting in a big way towards BJP and sections of Dalits moving with Paswan, JDU president Sharad Yadav may have a tough time in his stronghold.

Gopalganj: Former BSP state unit vice-president Janak Chamar who recently joined BJP has been made the LS candidate from this seat. He represents the newly emerging Dalit face of the party and has a decent chance of posting a victory from here, especially as JDU stalwart and sitting MP Puranmasi Ram has quit the party and created chaos.

Madhya Pradesh

Anything less than 25 in this state where BJP won an impressive third term would be a huge disappointment for the saffron camp. Ticket distribution here has been mostly along expected lines, as the party has announced 24 names in this list. Congress is organizationally very weak after its debilitating defeat just 3 months ago and the anti-incumbency against the UPA government at the centre has only worsened the matters for the party. Whatever pickings Congress can hope from Madhya Pradesh have to come from individual leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindhia in Gwalior or Kamalnath in Chhindwara etc.

There is no point analysing each seat as BJP would easily win most of them so we will concentrate only on the important swing seats and highlight the changes the party has made this time. For instance, state unit president, Narendra Singh Tomar, has been moved from Morena to Gwalior (a wise move) without paying heed to the unreasonable request of Yashodhara Raje Scindhia who wanted a ticket for her mostly NRI son. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s nephew, Anoop Mishra would now be contesting from Morena. Former IAS officer Bhagirath Prasad Singh, who refused the Congress ticket to join BJP last week, has been given the Bhind reserved constituency. The big worry for BJP could be that it has named several unknown entities in its list which probably leaves a lot on the shoulders of Modi to pull them towards victory.

Mandla: Faggan Singh Kulaste, former minister in the Vajpayee cabinet and one of the tribal faces of the party has been re-nominated despite losing 2009. This time he should sail through easily.

Shahdol: Old man Dalpat Singh has been nominated from here to take on the royalty of Ambagarh Chauki represented by sitting MP of Congress Rajesh Nandini Singh. A young new face could probably have made a much better choice for the BJP, but the party seems to be in no mood to anger the old guard.

Hoshangabad: Rao Uday Pratap Singh, the sitting MP of Congress, who joined BJP just before the assembly elections last year has been given the ticket here, which has led to some discontentment. Rao Uday Pratap Singh is a young and dynamic farmer leader who has considerable hold over rural voters and is virtually undefeatable here, even with some BJP workers rebelling against him.

Chhindwara: Local MLA, Chandrabhan Singh, has been nominated to take on Congress stalwart, Ajatashatru, Kamalnath. As of today, it looks like BJP won’t be able to cause the big upset, but this David v/s Goliath fight may turn in the coming days with aggressive campaigning.

Rajgarh: This is a seat which sways as per the whims and fancies of Digvijay Singh and BJP seems to have made peace with the fact, therefore nominating a greenhorn, Rodmal Nagar, who is an unknown entity (there is even talk of match-fixing). Many were expecting a ticket to Tawarchand Gehlot from here who could have probably given a fight to Congress.

Guna: Jyotiraditya Scindhia will win this seat despite BJP nominating ex MP and sitting MLA, Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya.

Ujjain: Another unknown commodity, Prof Chintamani Malviya has been nominated from here to take on sitting MP of Congress, Guddu Premchand. Prof Malviya teaches philosophy and has come from very humble beginnings where he earned his living as a street vendor. It is said that top RSS leaders like Makhan Singh and Bhagwat Charan Mathur were behind this bold move by the BJP of denying ticket to old guard like Satyanarayan Jatiya and instead trying a young new face.

Ratlam: Two veterans, Kantilal Bhuria (Congress) and Dileep Singh Bhuria (BJP) will once again cross swords here. In 2009 Congress had won this seat, but the recent victory of BJP in the assembly elections coupled with Modi wave may tilt the balance in favour of Dilip Singh Bhuria this time around.

Southern Hemisphere

Karnataka

Finally some “freshness” has been shown by BJP in Karnataka by nominating right leaning Kannada Journalist, Pratap Simha from Mysore, a seat which has strong Congress presence. One thing that is absolutely clear from the Karnataka list is that BJP central leadership (of Modi-Rajnath duo) has simply given the state completely under the control of B.S Yeddyurappa. It is a good move because now BSY, the tallest standing BJP leader south of Vindhyas, will be responsible for the party’s showing in the state. All other factions have been put to place and BSY has emerged on top of Karnataka once again.

Mysore: This an out and out Congress seat which has the entire state government concentrated in this region. By nominating a young journalist like Pratap Simha, at least BJP has shown an inclination to think out of the box. Now Simha and BJP must convert this into a David v/s Goliath battle and also use the large online army of BJP supporters to effectively campaign from here. If the underdog manages to somehow upset the Congress applecart, then CM Siddramaiah would be in big trouble post elections.

Udupi-Chikmagalur: BSY imprint is seen cleary in this as his close aide and confidante, Shobha Karandlaje, has managed to get the ticket from here. Congress MP, J.P. Hegde is a clean man who has a clear edge in this seat, but now it all depends on BSY’s ability to grab victory from the jaws of defeat – a job he is fully capable of, when the party backs him fully. With the Brahmin votes splitting vertically, minority and Kuruba votes going to Congress and Lingayat votes with BJP, Vokkaliga and other backward caste votes could become crucial in this election. Can BSY create his social engineering magic? Will the local unit of BJP, especially MLAs like C.T. Ravi back Shobha 100%? Answers to these questions hold BJP’s chances here.

Tumkur: Another BSY imprint on ticket distribution, for the entire state BJP unit led by the Joshi-Anant gang were up in arms against re-nominating sitting MP from here, but BSY got his follower, G.S. Basawaraj the ticket despite all odds. Now the task is cut out for BSY, he has to polarize the entire Lingayat votes in favour of BJP here. Once again the contest here is likely to be between BJP and JDS, as Congress is weak in this parliamentary constituency.

Kolar and Mandya: BJP has no chance of winning Mandya and only remote chance of defeating union minister K.H. Muniyappa in Kolar. M. Narayanaswamy has been nominated from Kolar and Shivlingaiah will take on actress Ramya in Mandya. Interestingly, apart from Bellary where Sriramulu will get the party ticket, Bidar is the only other seat where BJP hasn’t announced its candidate (Hassan doesn’t matter). Could it be possible that Mallamma Bande, the widow of slain cop, Mallikarjun Bande, is being considered for Bidar? If this miracle happens, then Congress will likely be sunk in North Karnataka.

Maharashtra

Finally, Poonam Mahajan will take on the formidable Priya Dutt from Mumbai North Central, while advocate Sharad Bansode will once again try his luck against union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde who has never lost this seat since 1998, except for 2004 when his wife Ujwalatai Shinde contested from Solapur. Poonam Mahajan’s contest against Ms Dutt may just be academic in nature, but it does give Gopinath Munde a big boost. Both these constituencies are Congress strongholds and are likely to withstand even a strong Modi wave.

BJP has announced 14 names from Kerala too, but most of them would find it difficult to save their deposits.

East

Assam

The Assam list is singularly uninspiring and the party may now win only 3-4 seats in this state. One wonders what was the logic in giving ticket to Rameshwar Teli from Dibrugarh, where the only hope for the BJP now is a possible Modi wave and the distant possibility of a tie-up with AGP. Kabindra Purakayastha has been re-nominated from Silchar but once again requires a big vote-split between Congress and AUDF to emerge victorious.

In West Bengal, BJP has given 7 tickets, but the only one of importance is Darjeeling where former deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, S.S. Ahluwalia has been given BJP ticket and has also received the crucial support of GMM. Just like 2009, when Jaswant Singh won from Darjeeling due to GMM support, BJP has a chance of repeating its lone victory in WB but has to content with Trinamool Congress’s football star Baichung Bhutia.


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Analysis of BJP’s 2nd List

(BJP announced only the single seat of Wardha, Maharashtra, in its second list. To read analysis of the 1st list click here)

BJP released its third list of candidates for the 16th Lok Sabha election yesterday for two important states of Karnataka and Assam and 4 states where it can at best hope to simply put up a fight for second place in some of the seats – Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. The party is trying hard to avoid ticket distribution in the important north Indian states, which is indeed strange because a similar delay had cost it dearly in Delhi assembly elections recently. A struggling Congress party meanwhile has announced its first list of 194 LS seats and has stolen a march against the BJP for an early localized campaign.

In key North Indian states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Congress candidates would start campaigning from tomorrow, even as regional parties like the Samajwadi Party have announced their lists many weeks ago. But BJP is still reportedly trying to find consensus in these states. Although it is understandable that BJP being the leading party for the 2014 elections has a larger pool of contenders, what is unforgivable is the apparent lack of homework about the unfolding situation. With limited time-period for campaigning, BJP is in danger of losing its nationalized advantage of an energetic Modi campaign due to last minute ticket distribution woes.

Southern Hemisphere: Karnataka and Kerala

In Karnataka, BJP has virtually re-nominated all its sitting MPs and has shown its inherent reluctance for risk taking – which may be the precursor to a national picture of no new faces. It is indeed strange that the party has not shown the gumption to usher in new talent anywhere; be it in the highly urbanized Bangalore region or erstwhile strongholds of coastal and Mumbai Karnataka. Everywhere the same old tired warhorses are trying their luck once again which leaves much to desire for a fast urbanizing India. What happened to names like Anil Kumble that were bandied about till a month ago?

Gulbarga: BJP has re-nominated ex animal husbandry minister, Revu Naik Belamagi for this SC reserved constituency. Not only had he lost this seat in the 2009 LS elections when Karnataka (unlike India) was in a strong BJP wave, but also he had lost the assembly elections in May last year. Congress has the towering Dalit leader and union Railway minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, re-contesting the seat and the only question now is what would be Congress’s victory margin – by all counts it should be closer to a lakh+. Had BJP shown some imagination here, it could have put up a real fight in this constituency, but now that is almost impossible.

Raichur: BJP has nominated ex-minister and former JDS legislator who had joined the BJP during the ‘Operation Lotus’ phase of the party and had later rebelled against the party. He is still a young leader, but has mixed credentials within the BJP fold. Congress is yet to announce a candidate here, but this is one of those seats which the party cannot afford to lose. Last time around, BJP had won this seat purely on the charisma of Sriramulu (who is now reportedly back in the BJP after his brief flirtation with a regional party), but this time BJP is banking more on the Modi wave.

Bijapur: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP, Ramesh Jigjinagi, who still has strong pockets of influence in this constituency. While Congress has given ticket to MLC Prakash Rathod who not only faces the “outsider” tag but also faces rebellion from within the party. Mr. Jigjinagi has won this seat twice in the past (BJP itself has been winning this seat since 1999), while Mr. Rathod has lost this seat thrice in the past. Congress does have an advantage in terms of 7 out 8 assembly segments having Congress legislators, but voters here have the maturity to make distinction between national and local elections.

Bagalkot: is a BJP and a Lingayat stronghold which the party cannot afford to lose. Having re-nominated sitting MP, P.C. Gaddigoudar, BJP has not taken any risks, while Congress is yet to officially announce its candidate. What has muddied the waters this time here is the presence of former Police Commissioner of Bangalore, Shankar Bidari, IPS, either as an independent candidate or possibly even on a JDS or AAP ticket. Bidari being a Lingayat, may hurt BJP’s chances here, for he has influential pockets in Jamakhandi, Ilkal and his home town Banahatti.

Chikkodi: The Katti brothers are virtually undefeatable here, so BJP has re-nominated Ramesh Katti. The only man who can take him on is small scale industries minister in the state Congress government, Prakash Hukkeri, but he is disinclined to fight an MP election and sacrifice his ministry.

Belgaum: BJP has reposed faith in the sitting MP Suresh Angadi, whereas Congress lacks serious candidates. So, this is again a seat that BJP cannot afford to lose. The only X factor that should worry BJP is the shifting loyalties of Marathi voters and the direction the MES takes (Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi), which has a sitting MLA in the constituency.

Haveri: This was one of the pre-conditions of BSY’s return to the party fold and has been met easily as there was no other leader worth his salt to fight from the Lotus brigade. Shivakumar Udasi had won the seat by a big 90k margin last time around and has a strong chance of winning again. Traditionally, Congress allocates this seat to the minorities, so the party may once again find it difficult to defeat the Udasis here. The two X factors this time are Sriramulu’s re-entry into the BJP, for he still has a lot of influence here especially among his Valmiki community voters and the role of rural development minister in the state Congress government, H.K. Patil, who has stature and influence in the constituency. If H.K. Patil manages to wrest the party ticket for his brother, then it could be a more even fight here.

Dharwad: Another BJP bastion, where state unit president, Prahlad Joshi will re-contesting on the party ticket and has a decent chance of repeating his victory. Although there was some talk of a localized anti-incumbency against the sitting MP in the last few months and the party’s performance even in our own poll survey here was lackluster, Dharwad is one constituency where there is a big Modi wave and Congress is struggling to name its candidate, this is also the area which is known as the birthplace of the LIBRA (Lingayat-Brahmin) social coalition in Karnataka, a mainstay of the BJP.

Koppal: BJP has changed its sitting MP and has nominated former JDS MLA, Karadi Sanganna, who had joined the party during the ‘Operation Lotus’ phase. This is a seat where there is a large presence of Kuruba and OBC voters, so it is a prestige contest for CM, Siddaramaiah, but Congress has not yet announced its candidate. This is one seat that could go to the wires, as it also has areas where both BSY and Sriramulu have influence over voters.

Davangere and Chitradurga: These two central Karnataka districts have seen the most insipid choices by the BJP, for it has simply re-nominated its sitting MPs – S.M. Siddeshwara and Janardhana Swamy, respectively. Congress has nominated sitting MLA, S.S. Mallikarjun (the son of Lingayat strongman Shyamnoor Shivshankarappa) for the Davangere seat and is yet to announce Chitradurga. BJP has once again shown lack of imagination here and may lose both the seats. Even a Modi wave and the return of BSY and Sriramulu may not be able to win either seats for the party, unless Congress bungles up Chitradurga.

Uttara Kannada: This is again a BJP stronghold and the party has re-nominated Anant Kumar hegde for this seat, although there was talk of making a change this time and going for former education minister Vishweshwar Hegde Kageri, which never materialized in the end. This is an area dominated by Brahmin politics and Congress may find it difficult to defeat BJP. Congress hasn’t announced its candidate from here because there is a tussle between two influential leaders, Margret Alva and R.V. Deshpande who both want to secure a ticket to their sons.

Dakshin Kannada: BJP has re-nominated sitting MP, Nalin Kumar Katil, who had been found lacking in multiple surveys conducted in the constituency (including our own survey). Modi wave and Congress’s internal wars may help BJP here eventually, for there is a big fight between old war horse Janardhan Poojary and union minister Veerappa Moily who wants his son, Harsha Moily to contest from here on the Congress ticket. The former still has influence here despite his age, while the latter has tacit support of Rahul Gandhi.

Shimoga: B.S. Yeddyurappa will win this seat easily for the BJP, the only question is about the margin of victory.

Chamrajnagar: BJP has nominated Krishna Murthy from here, whereas Congress has reposed faith in sitting MP, Dhruvanarayana. This being the home district of CM Siddramaiah, Congress should easily win this seat.

Chikkballapur: This is Veerappa Moily constituency, from where BJP has nominated a strong candidate in the form of former agriculture minister B.N. Bachhegowda who has a good influence among the Vokkaliga community present in large numbers here (Moily is an OBC). The two X factors here are – 1) If JDS fields a weak candidate, then it may help BJP consolidate its votes and 2) The presence of a large number of Andhra Reddy voters who had voted for Congress last time due to the YSR factor and may vote for BJP this time due to Sriramulu’s return (he is seen as close to Jagan Reddy). Even surveys have shown that Congress is on a weak wicket here, so Moily may struggle to retain his seat.

Bangalore Rural: BJP is losing rural, where it has nominated Muniraju and Congress has sitting MP D.K. Suresh as its candidate. BJP, in all likelihood, will end up as a distant third here, for the contest will be between Congress and JDS.

Bangalore Central: P.C. Mohan has been once again given BJP ticket, who had won last time as there was a split in the minority votes. This time BJP has shown no courage at all here, for there was a huge need to change the sitting MP; now this is a Congress seat to lose (only if there is some internal sabotage due to ticket distribution). Indications are that Sharief may get the Congress ticket one last time, but if Congress creates hara-kiri and nominates Youth Congress president, Rizwan Arshad, there may be rebellion within Congress, for Sharief is known to be very close to Devegowda.

Bangalore South: Surveys have consistently shown BJP to be ahead in this constituency, but Congress has shown courage by nominating Nandan Nilekani, who may finally prove to be the nemesis of BJP warhorse Anant Kumar. As of today, BJP is ahead in Govindraj Nagar, Basavangudi and Bommanahalli assembly segments, whereas Congress is ahead in BTM layout, Chikpet and Jayanagar assembly segments. In the end analysis, Vijaynagar and Padmanabhanagar assembly segments will decide who wins Bangalore South.

Bangalore North: BJP has nominated former CM Sadanand Gowda, who can be an energetic campaigner and has the backing of BSY too. Here, the one X factor could be the presence of JDS, which can take away Congress’s votes and help BJP. There are many BJP stronghold assembly segments here (Malleshwaram, Dasarahalli, Hebbal etc.) and since Vokkaligas are present in large numbers who count Sadananda Gowda as a leader of the community outside the JDS fold, the party may win this seat. At any rate, among all of Bangalore seats, this is the most-winnable seat for the party, especially since Congress doesn’t have a strong candidate here.

Kasargod: This is a Kerala constituency that has been on the BJP radar since long now and the party has re-nominated K. Surendran from here. He had finished a close second in two out of 7 assembly segments – Manjeshwar and Kasargod, but it would still take a minor miracle for BJP to win this seat notwithstanding a Modi wave.

Thiruvanantapuram: BJP has nominated O. Rajagopal to take on Shashi Tharoor of the Congress. If BJP can somehow make a contest out of this urban constituency by leveraging its online presence, then it can give a fight, especially since Mr. Tharoor is said to be suffering from localized anti-incumbency and is also facing flak for his wife’s death under mysterious circumstances.

Ernakulum is the third BJP seat, from where A.N. Radhakrishnan has been re-nominated, but has little chance of getting an upset victory in this K.V. Thomas constituency.

The East India: Assam, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura

Except for Assam, BJP’s fight in the rest of east India is merely symbolic, so the party seems to have done with ticket distribution at the earliest to give its candidates enough time to make their presence felt. It is not yet clear if AGP is fully out of the NDA (due to opposition by the local unit of the party), so the Assam list too is incomplete as of now. Since there is an alliance with P.A. Sangma’s NPP, BJP has only announced Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura till now.

Gauhati: This is a Bijoy Chakravarthy and BJP stronghold where they lost only in 2004 because of AGP taking away a lot of votes in Boko, Chayagaon and Palasbari assembly segments. Now AGP doesn’t have any base left here, so the contest would be between Congress and BJP, the former has nominated Manas Bora, who won the much taunted “primaries”, but has great opposition from none other than the Congress CM, Tarun Gogoi. With Congress a divided house and AUDF cutting a small section of Congress’s minority votes, BJP is sitting pretty in Gauhati.

Mangaldoi: This is a sensitive constituency as it is vertically split between Bodos and Bangladeshi Muslims. Mangaldoi and Dalgaon assembly segments have significant Muslim population, whereas Udalguri and Panery are Bodo strongholds. BJP has re-nominated its sitting MP Ramen Deka who will face his big challenge from AUDF, rather than the Congress, which may be virtually out of contest here this time. The X factor of course would be BOPF (Bodo People’s Front), which may cut BJP’s votes if it puts up a strong candidate.

Nowgong: is again a BJP seat, where sitting MP, Rajen Gohain has been re-nominated. Here AUDF had got almost 2 lakh 50k votes last time which had helped the BJP tremendously in defeating Congress. If a similar arithmetic unfolds this time, Then BJP may emerge victorious again.

Lakhimpur: Used to be an AGP stronghold once upon a time when Dr. Arun Sharma had even been an MP, but now this is one of those seats where BJP has gobbled up AGP leadership and cadre. The state unit BJP president, Sarbananda Sonowal, who was once an AGP leader, is the party candidate in Lakhimpur and can give a tough fight to union tribal affairs minister, Ranee Narah, the Congress strongwoman who has won this seat many times in the past. The one X factor here is anti-incumbency, which is affecting the Congress both locally as well as nationally.

Jorhat: This is an out and out Congress stronghold represented by former union minister, B.K. Handique, who has never lost the seat in close to three decades. BJP has once again fielded the young and dynamic, Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, of the Tea tribe community who had given sleepless nights to Congress strongman in the 2009 polls.

In Odisha, the one seat of considerable interest would be Balasore, where BJP has fielded sitting MLA, Pratap Sarangi who has a chance of becoming a giant killer if he can possibly defeat Srikant Jena, union minister for chemicals and fertilizers. BJP still has pockets of influence in Nilgiri, Remuna and Jaleswar assembly segments and Congress is battling huge anti-incumbency, while this is one seat where there is limited influence of the ruling BJD.

In the rest of the seats announced in the 3rd list from West Bengal (17), Tripura (3) and Odisha (4), BJP candidates will find it difficult even to not lose their deposits. Among other interesting features, BJP has given MP tickets to two Muslims in WB and singer Babul Supriyo would be adding star power to the contest in Asansol parliamentary constituency, while national spokesperson and the chief Editor of Pioneer, Chandan Mitra is contesting from Hooghly.